The Kiwi Ferns have the chance to end a 14-year drought since winning their last world title this Sunday morning when they meet trans-Tasman rivals Australia in the RWLC Women's final.
It's their chance to emulate last weekend's historic feat reached by the Black Ferns, who took out their sixth rugby world title against England here in Aotearoa.
Coach Rick Henry has unveiled his 19-women team to take it to the Jillaroos. It includes the starting return of winger Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa), and Madison Bartlett (Ngāti Porou) starts as Daly's opposite.
RLWC Golden Boot winner & Dally M Player of the Year medalist Raecene McGregor (Ngāti Whātua) will start in the halves, while Krystal Rota will continue captaincy duties. Sister Page McGregor will also start as centre. Speaking to NRL.COM, McGregor was confident her team, as prepared as it would be, could prevent a third straight loss to the Jillaroos.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that we can beat Australia. We were a little bit unfortunate in that last game but I think as long as we stick to our process and go up the middle, and finish and execute on the edges, I think we can definitely get the win."
Katelyn Vaha'akolo (Ngāti Whātua) is named the 19th woman, joining the extended bench.
All but one of the Ferns' games have been victories this tournament, having defeated the Cook Islands and France in pool play. Their 20-6 victory over tournament hosts England just last weekend in the semi-final has given them the confidence needed for their second tournament meeting with Australia.
Their one loss to the Jillaroos last Friday was a closer contest than expected, given that Australia has scored close to 100 points against other nations this tournament. The 10-8 matchup between the Ferns and Jillaroos paints a potentially spoiling picture in which New Zealand could exact revenge and win a world title in the process.
The Kiwi Ferns face off against Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final on Sunday at 2:15 am.
Full Kiwi Ferns squad for RLWC Final
1. Apii Nicholls
3. Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly
24. Mele Hufanga
4. Page McGregor
5. Madison Bartlett
15. Abigail Roache
7. Raecene McGregor
23. Brianna Clark
9. Krystal Rota
10. Annetta Claudia-Nu’uausala
11. Roxette Murdoch-Masila
12. Amber-Paris Hall
13. Georgia Hale
14. Nita Maynard
8. Mya Hill-Moana
18. Otesa Pule
17. Christyl Stowers
16. Charlotte Scanlan
2. Katelyn Vahaakolo